By Carl Hanson

What to pair with Chardonnay

Chardonnay, it's a karma karma chameleon. Lean and bright here, big and buttery there. It can be a zillion different things, and it's susceptible to suggestion.

So when winemakers go for rich ripeness and lots of long, languorous bathing in oak, the agreeable grapes go along for a big buttery ride. But Chardonnay grapes can go the other way, too. In parts of Burgundy, France, say, the unoaked style is more crisp and lean; and the grapes are often grown on limestone, so you taste stony, flinty flavors, along with some apple and melon and such.

What this means when you're pairing food with Chardonnay is, one size doesn't fit all. But Chardonnay's versatility let's you have the best of both worlds. Try a minerally Burgundy with oysters and mussels and lighter seafood. But a cream sauce, say, would do well with a richer Chardonnay.

Here are some of our very favorite pairings with Chardonnay:

1. Bay Scallop Chowder

Why it works: Scallops love Chardonnay. Bacon loves Chardonnay. Cream, of course, loves to love it. Potatoes, same story. People, do not deny a love so strong. Go with the Chardonnay.

2. Fruited Curry Chicken Salad

Why it works: Yes, curry and chicken go cray for Chardonnay. But what puts this one over the top is the fruit. The grapes, chopped apple, and golden raisins make it special. And the toasted pecans add texture and a richness that Chardonnay can hang onto.

Photo by Traci-in-Cali

3. Best Ever Crab Cakes

Why it works: Crab meat, lightly breaded and fried -- it's one for the lean, fresh, flinty Chardonnays that are bright with acidity, like a Chablis or an Italian Chardonnay.

Photo by Jessica

4. Avocado and Tuna Tapas

Why it works: The tuna, mayo, and buttery avocado work great with rich Chardonnay, but you wouldn't miss a beat with a clean, bright white Burgundy either. Any leftovers? Fry up some bacon and make this sandwich. And, uh, drink more of the wine.

Photo by bd.weld

5. Dijon-Tarragon Cream Chicken

Why it works: Chicken has a love-love relationship with Chardonnay. So what makes this particular recipe special? One word, tarragon. Another word, Dijon. Two very Chardonnay-friendly ingredients.

Photo by LynnInHK

6. Super Simple Salmon

Why it works: Fatty salmon is a friend of Chardonnay. And this recipe proves that the preparation doesn't need to be complicated to be delicious. Toss some salmon fillets on the grill and finish with a little butter and a bright splash of lemon, then pair it up with a rich Chardonnay. That's simple perfection.


7. Chicken Kiev

Why it works: There is butter and parsley sauce inside the lightly breaded and rolled chicken breasts! This was built for Chardonnay. But OK, if this recipe's too worky, a super-simple roast chicken is also Chardonnay's perfect partner.

8. Grilled Marinated Shrimp

Why it works: A crisp, fresh Chablis would be a genius move here. But you're grilling them, so an oaky Chardonnay could work, too. Really the only way you can miss with this pairing is if you drop the Chardonnay bottle on the patio floor, shattering it.

Photo by jrbaker

9. Chicken Fried Chicken

Why it works: With fried foods, a nice bright Chardonnay, like a Chablis, is delicious. But lay off the heavily oaked Chardonnay. Or go with a cold, cold lager beer.

Photo by Jessica

10. Whiting Meuniere

Why it works: A delicate white fish in a simple butter and lemon sauce, it's another recipe that was just plain born for Chardonnay -- but choose a no-oak style. This simple preparation works great for sole and trout, too

Photo by pelicangal

11. Grilled Tarragon Mustard Chicken

Why it works: This one hits the Chardonnay trifecta: It's grilled, it's chicken, and it features tarragon, mustard, and a splash of lemon juice. Basically, when chicken hits the grill, bring out the big, rich Chardonnay and have a ball.

Photo by DIZ